More snacks to add to the pile. I made two sets of flatbread so far, which basically come out like big crackers. These can be used to spread things on, such as the already made cheese, pea spread, etc. Or herring, since who doesn’t like a good pickled herring?
There have been a few oven-like hearths found in the Viking context. See Thora’s excellent summary for more info. I think that bread, however, was probably more often cooked on the “frying pan”. There are several examples from the archaeological record of long handled frying pans, which are essentially flat, sideless disks of metal attached to a long handle. Flat, crackerlike bread would be very easy to cook on such a pan, by placing it over the open fire until the bread had dried. Another possibility is the flat soapstone hearth. Modern Finns still use (in some places) flat soapstones that sit next to the open fire. You lay out your “cracker” dough, thinly rolled, on the soapstone until it starts to set, then take of off and prop it up next to the fire, with the top side facing the heat, until it’s dried hard. Traditionally these breads were made round with a hole in the middle so that you could hang then on a string or pole in the rafters over the fire, where heat and smoke would keep the bugs off them making them last nearly indefinitely.
I cheated, and made mine in the oven, since I didn’t have time to set everything up over a fire. I modified a modern Swedish flatbread recipe. I don’t think they’ve changed all that much, and it jives with the ingredients and techniques that were available in period. I used 2–3 cups of mixed flour, part dark rye, part oat flour, part barley flour. Wheat doesn’t grow well in Scandinavia, so rye, oats, and barley are much more commonly found. There are also several instances from the archaeological record that include green pea flour. I really want to try that out, and may tonight, but haven’t so far. Anyway, I mixed the flours with about 1/2 cup of melted butter, maybe 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and baking soda, and enough buttermilk to make a very stiff dough. In period, baking soda (calcium bicarbonate) as we know it wasn’t available, but they would have used hartshorn, which behaves quite similarly. Hartshorn is ammonium bicarbonate, which is derived from burning deer antlers (hart’s horn). It is still available from specialty stores, and is still used in baking in Scandinavia. Supposedly (I’ve never tried it) it produces lighter bread/cookies than baking soda, and produces a very strong ammonia smell during baking, which isn’t present in the finished goods.
I let the dough rest for 20 minutes or so, then rolled it out on a greased cookie sheet and baked at 375° for 20–25 minutes. After they were cooled, I left them out overnight to continue drying, since they should be crisp. Putting them in a very low (200°) oven for a while would probably also help. To roll them out, I used a modern Scandinavian rolling pin that is studded, so the resulting bread is textured on top. I’m guessing in period they’d have probably rolled them out using a smooth stick, then pricked them with something fork-like to get the desired texture.